British photographic history

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Online: Early Royal Navy photographs compiled by Lieutenant Arthur Onslow 1858-1863

My talk on early Royal Navy photographs compiled by Lieutenant Arthur Onslow is up on YouTube. 

Mostly taken between 1858 and 1863 the talk is mainly focussed on the actions of HMS Herald while it was engaged in one of the longest surveying missions ever undertaken by the Admiralty. Among the many rare images are those of Menang Noongar men & women taken by Onslow and naval artist and photographer James Glen Wilson on their visit to King George Sound, Western Australia in February 1858. There are also early images of Quandamooka people from Moreton Island, Queensland taken when HMS Herald visited around November 1858.

Other photos covered in this talk are: HMS Iris, Tanna, Vanuatu, 1858; the beacon erected on Mellish Cay by H.M.S Herald using the remains of French Man-O-War Duroc; Table Bay, Cape Town South Africa, 1861; HMS Phaeton, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1862; Street Scene, Matamoros, Mexico, ca. 1862; HMS Phaeton, Nelson Dock, English Harbour, Antiqua, West Indies, 1863 and Tudor Street, Bridgetown, Barbados, West Indies, ca. 1863. 

These photographs are all contained in an important album of early Australian and Pacific photographs which includes images by a veritable ‘who’s who’ of amateur photographers working in Sydney at the end of the 1850s. These include John Smith, Robert Hunt, Matthew Fortesque Moresby, Edward Wolstenholme Ward as well as the work of professionals like William Hetzer. 

The richness of the content in this scrapbook allows for any number of possible discussions but this talk focuses on the naval photographs which form a strong narrative thread that flows through the album. Importantly, as the photos were originally credited to James Macarthur, the talk also adds to the argument that Arthur Onslow was central to the compiling of these photographs and perhaps by extension the many other images in the album.

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